On Monday, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 199 into law to become effective in 90 days. Previously, Ohio employers were free to prohibit the presence of firearms on their premises or property. With the enactment of SB 199, Ohio now joins several other states, including Indiana and Kentucky, in banning employer policies that prohibit persons with a valid concealed handgun license (CHL) from keeping a firearm or ammunition in their personal vehicles on their employers’ premises. The ban applies to public and private employers, business entities and property owners. CHL holders may keep firearms and ammunition in their personal vehicles on employers’ premises provided: (1) the CHL holder stays inside the vehicle with the firearm/ammunition or if he/she leaves the vehicle, the firearm/ammunition remains locked inside the trunk, glove box or other enclosed compartment or container within or on the vehicle; and (2) the vehicle is in a location where it is otherwise permitted to be.
While the law does intrude upon the rights of employers to control their premises, employers can be grateful that a prior version of the bill, that would have made CHL holders who store firearms in their private vehicles a “protected class,” did not pass.
The law as amended not only bans policies that prohibit CHL holders from keeping firearms in their private vehicles, it also bans policies that “have the effect” of such a prohibition. It remains to be seen how that language will be interpreted. For example, although employers may no longer prohibit the storage of firearms in personal vehicles, may they “regulate” the presence of firearms by such methods as requiring disclosure of the weapons’ presence on a periodic or even daily basis? The new law is silent as to what penalty an employer will incur for violating the statute.
Finally, the law provides that no employer shall be liable in a civil action for harm arising out of another’s actions involving a firearm transported or stored pursuant to the statute unless the employer “intentionally solicited or procured the other person’s injurious actions.” While the rational interpretation of this language is one of broad immunity to employers, the law does not address potential liability for another’s actions involving a firearm that was not stored pursuant to the statute, e.g., in an unlocked vehicle.
Employers should review their existing weapons policies to ensure compliance with the current gun laws in the states in which they do business.